Students can help improve water

Junior Yonik Joseph has lived on campus for nearly three years, and said bottled water is an indispensable supply when living on a college campus.

“This water looks gray,” said. the 21-year-old business administration student. “I don’t trust it, so I buy my own.”

Many students at Florida A&M University share the same views as Joseph. Some were warned about drinking from public water fountains by a relative. Others were nauseated at seeing their classmates discarding food or washing cups at the fountains.

“It is sad to see how students misuse things on campus. We don’t take care of the little we have,” said O.S. Mbuya, assistant professor of agricultural science, who works at FAMU’s water quality office.

Water quality officials said the water at FAMU is not bad at all. Tallahassee’s Water Quality Manager, Jamie Shakar, said the water at FAMU is tested on a daily basis using pH and bacterial analysis.

There are also monthly in-depth inspections that test, among other things, alkalinity, the presence of metals and organic contaminants.

The City of Tallahassee’s 2004 Water Quality Report, available at, reported that, “City drinking water remains clean and safe.”

Some students may think that whatever they dump in the fountains will go straight through the drain. However, residual materials might cause mold, fungi and bacterial proliferation that can be easily carried through the air. Big particles will congest the drains and cause the fountains to clog.

“Our fountains are not provided with a system that will flush food remains, so when large substances get caught in the drain, it will eventually clutter up,” Mbuya said.

Ronald Barron, the assistant director of building services at FAMU, said custodians make sure the fountains are wiped daily.

Earnest Brewer, who is also an assistant director of building services at the University’s Plant Operations and Maintenance Department, said, “impure substances will not affect the drinking water unless [contaminates enter it].” He said the school is not required to further filtrate the city’s water, which already is of good quality.

Brewer said the only thing students need to pay closer attention to is the color of the water. He said because some fountains may be several years old, there is a risk that pipes have rusted, and consequently, the water may appear to be brown.

He said if there are complaints of leaking, breaking or loose pipes, which tend to cause the most problems with fountains, someone will be sent right away to fix the problem.

“Also, rusty walls do not affect the water quality. Again, the only thing that could cause the water to get contaminated is if an impure substance touches it,” Brewer said.

In the cafeteria, Sodexho Campus Services, FAMU’s food service contractor, relies completely on the water provided by the physical plant.

“The water that goes into the soda and ice maker machines is provided by the school, so if there is any problem with it, the physical plant handles that,” said Shelita Nelson, the Sodexho central manager.

Despite the campus’ water standards, a number of Rattlers, like Tyrica Larry, a criminal justice student, will continue purchasing bottled water. The price of bottled water on campus varies from 60 cents in the soda machines to $1.25 in the bookstore.

“The water is straight, but whenever I can, I buy water,” Larry said.

Contact Nilse Furtado at